A heated dispute between Baton Rouge personal injury lawyers Gordon McKernan and E. Eric Guirard over accusations of ripping off advertising slogans and imagery just got hotter.
In recent court filings, Guirard asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit McKernan filed against him in late June for alleged trademark infringement. Guirard also struck back by filing a countersuit against McKernan.
Guirard has resumed using his "E Guarantee" trademarked slogan that he used for many years prior to his 2009 disbarment by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which restored his law license in 2016.
McKernan, meanwhile, has been using his "G Guarantee" slogan in his advertising since obtaining a trademark on the slogan in 2014 and wants Senior U.S. District Judge James Brady to prohibit Guirard from using his own signature "E Guarantee" catch phrase. McKernan's attorneys claim the "E Guarantee" slogan was officially abandoned during Guirard's disbarment.
In a court-filed answer to McKernan's suit, Guirard's attorneys allege that McKernan "sought to capitalize" on Guirard's disbarment by "muscling in" on Guirard's longstanding trademark and related slogans and imagery. Guirard is asking that McKernan be stopped from using his "G Guarantee" slogan.
The legal spat also involves Guirard's mocking television commercial that depicts a man bearing McKernan's likeness falling off an 18-wheeler while filming a TV ad.
It's Gordon McKernan's "G Guarantee" versus fellow Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer E. Eri…
McKernan is asking Brady to order Guirard to stop using McKernan's image and likeness without authorization in commercial advertisements for legal services.
Guirard's attorneys contend McKernan's and his law firm's motive in using and obtaining registration rights in the "G Guarantee" and "Lawyer on a Truck" trademarks "was not to identify and differentiate their own services in the legal marketplace, but rather was calculated to hinder and obstruct (Guirard's and his firm's) attempts to engage in legitimate competition" with McKernan and his firm.
Guirard's attorneys also allege McKernan's use of his "G Guarantee" was intended to "sow confusion" with Guirard's longstanding use of similar trademarks and to "tee up this very legal dispute in an effort to drain (Guirard and his firm) of time, money, and other critical resources."
McKernan's suit likewise alleges the two lawyers slogans are "confusingly similar" and likely to cause confusion in the marketplace.
As for Guirard's mocking TV spot, his attorneys contend the ad is an "obvious parody" of McKernan's marketing efforts and they say McKernan is not the "gatekeeper of images featuring both a man and a truck for the entire trucking-litigation marketplace." McKernan's popular TV spots show him standing atop a big rig with arms folded.
McKernan's attorneys, in their court-filed answer to Guirard's counterclaim, also maintain Guirard "committed fraud" in 2014 by filing an intent-to-use trademark application for the "E Guarantee" slogan at a time when he was still disbarred and prohibited from practicing law.
Guirard's court filing says the application to register the trademark "E Guarantee" was filed "in anticipation of Mr. Guirard's readmission to the practice of law in Louisiana."
Former Baton Rouge personal-injury lawyer E. Eric Guirard’s seven-year hiatus from practicin…
Guirard and his then-law partner, Thomas R. Pittenger, were disbarred in 2009 because of what the state Supreme Court called their "business first" model, which included rewarding the firm's non-lawyer case managers for settling cases as quickly as possible, the high court said. Pittenger's law license was given back to him in 2015. Guirard is under supervised probation until next spring.
McKernan's suit alleges both trademark infringement and misappropriation of identity, and seeks monetary damages. Guirard also seeks damages.
Guirard and his firm are represented by Metairie lawyer Eric O'Bell and Albert Myers, of Georgia. McKernan's lawyers are Michael Rhea, Michael Leachman and Donald Washington with the Jones Walker law firm.